When BFB (that’s my titular best friend) first came back to Mediocre U, a blog friend warning me against collaborating with her. I ignored that warning, of course, and we started a project together. It’s…not going super well.
She doesn’t have the time for the project–she should have said no, like pretenure faculty are always being told to. (Say no, ya’ll. You’re just going to end up pissing off your collaborators.) So I can either forge ahead without her and totally take over, or wait on her. She’s not an experimentalist, so she doesn’t get that with experimental projects you have to keep working on the little things or you will never achieve anything. Little delays add up to big delays, so the waiting is extra frustrating for me.
These challenges are pretty typical, and in other collaborations I can shrug them off. Less typical is the way she keeps asking me for large amounts of support for things she can do herself. For example, her assigned task = write email. Obvious approach = write the fucking email. Her approach = wait two weeks then ask me to send her a draft of the email because of some terror about acting independently.
This makes my skin crawl for two reasons.
1) I am aaaaaaall about being independent and self reliant, in ways that have been both positive (I get shit done!) and negative (sometimes I suffer more than I need to because I won’t ask for help), so this violates my core values and provokes a very strong reaction.
2) It’s like working with a toddler.
A LOT of my home life revolves around thinking about what my children are and aren’t capable of and trying to help them find greater capacity. Sometimes my strong feelings about independence mean I don’t do this in an optimal way. I expect more of them than they are capable of and get furious when they don’t meet my expectations. I have a hair trigger for situations where they’re refusing to do things that they do for themselves all the time. (Like this morning Bun Bun refused to make her bed. I need help! I can’t dooooo it! This chore that she does Every Fucking Morning.) It sets off a cascade of irrational but deep-seated feelings–I survived my childhood by taking care of myself, so if they aren’t self-reliant then they won’t be SAFE.
At other times I can be reasonable and gentle with them, and even enjoy the snail’s pace at which they acquire skills. I can help them achieve things that they still need help with and encourage them to persevere in the face of frustration.
But I don’t want to fucking deal with it at work, too.